At least eight Orioles are likely to make more than $10 million next season, and if the team somehow re-signs both Mark Trumbo and Matt Wieters, which now seems unlikely, they’ll have 10.
Chris Davis ($23 mil), Adam Jones ($16.33 mil.), J.J. Hardy ($14 mil.) Ubaldo Jimenez ($13.5 mil) and Yovani Gallardo ($11 mil.) are guaranteed to be 10 figure guys. Zach Britton, Manny Machado and Chris Tillman all figure to cross the $10 million threshold since they’re arbitration eligible.
Combine Wade Miley’s $8.92 million, Darren O’Day’s $7 million, and the Orioles would be obligated for perhaps $125-$130 million.
Some of Davis’ and O’Day’s money is deferred, but it’s hard to see how the Orioles could re-sign both Wieters and Trumbo without significantly surpassing their approximately $150 million payroll in 2016.
The biggest question this offseason will be, how will the Orioles replace both Wieters and Trumbo.
Wieters and the Orioles put the replacement question off for a year when they offered, and he accepted their qualifying offer.
That won’t happen again this year, not with catcher-hungry teams already lining up to sign the most accomplished in a poor catching market.
Trumbo’s power is likely to generate some major offers, too.
The Orioles could go in-house with replacements.
Trey Mancini is the most obvious alternative, and manager Buck Showalter will have to be convinced that he’s ready to be a major contributor at designated hitter next spring.
Last spring, Mancini stayed at first base while Christian Walker was tried in the outfield. Walker’s numbers didn’t earn him a callup, but he’ll get another look in the spring if he’s not packaged during the winter.
Mancini’s arm wasn’t judged to be strong enough to play in right field, and he’s not going to dislodge Chris Davis from first base.
But, Mancini’s bat has members of the Orioles organization excited. He was added after Steve Pearce was lost for the season, and hit three home runs in five games.
Mancini’s minor league resume is an impressive one. He has a .306 average. In 2015, Mancini led the Eastern League with a .359 average, hitting 13 home runs and driving in 57 runs in 84 games for Double-A Bowie.
This year, he began the season with the Baysox, and hit .302 in 14 games before a promotion to Norfolk, where he hit .280 with 13 homers and 54 RBIs.
Mancini did strike out 140 times in 142 games, but showed decent plate discipline with a .349 on-base average.
If Mancini could replace Trumbo, could the Orioles also have a catcher to replace Wieters?
Chance Sisco’s supporters in the organization point to his bat as evidence.
He has a .323 average in four seasons of minor league ball and an outstanding .402 on-base average.
In 2014, Sisco hit .340 at Delmarva, .308 at Frederick in 2015 before he was sent to Bowie, and .320 with the Baysox this season.
Sisco’s defense is the big question. While his bat has played everywhere, it would seem difficult for a catcher to make the transition to the big leagues without any real Triple-A experience. (Sisco did play four games for the Tides at the end of the season.)
Triple-A is full of pitchers who have major league experience, and it might help Sisco to have some time at Triple-A in 2017 to work with some of those pitchers. while the Orioles use perhaps a placeholder to pair with Caleb Joseph.
At last Thursday’s season-ending news conference, Dan Duquette spoke about the depth of catching in the Orioles organization, citing not only Sisco, but Francisco Pena, who backed up Wieters after Joseph suffered a testicular injury as well as minor league catchers Audry Perez, Alex Murphy and Yermin Mercedes.
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